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The Love Nest

Live Lovebird Webcam

The last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about lovebird sex, because, when you really think about it, there’s a lot to think about. For example, do boy lovebirds have penises? Doesn’t the girl lovebird’s tail get in the way? Do birds enjoy sex, or is it just a biological imperative?

We’ll get to all that. But first we need to start with the basics. Lovebirds apparently need a nesting box in order to fulfill their procreative proclivities. So I got them a nesting box. It hooks up to the cage wall, on the inside of the cage. Next, they need nesting materials.

Every evening I visited the lovebirds with gifts. I brought them fern fronds from my garden, and soft downy cat fur, and grass and twigs and weeds that looked like miniature trees once they were in the cage. The lovebirds accepted my gifts with interest. They played with them, but they didn’t use them for nest building. It turns out the only thing Billie (the woman lovebird) wanted was paper. Lots of paper.

And here’s the weirdest thing. She uses her beak to shred the paper into strips about a quarter inch wide and two inches long. Then she tucks each strip into her tail feathers, like it’s a pocket. When her tail is full, she flies up to her nesting box, removes the strips, twists them in her beak and uses them to build her nest. (Her nest, incidentally, is not nest-shaped. It’s simply a big pillow of shredded, twisted newspaper.)

Lester, meanwhile, just gets in the way. He tries to shred newspaper, but he can’t. Billie will give him a piece of shredded paper to play with, just to keep him busy for a while while she works, and he’ll try to tuck it into his tail feathers, but he can’t do that either.

A few days ago they finally started having sex. I’ve only seen it twice so far, but it’s very cool. She sits motionless on the perch with her wings spread wide throughout the entire sex act. She lifts and points her tail to the side, to keep it out of the way. Lester climbs on top of her and pumps away non-stop for several minutes. Then suddenly he hops off and they both look quite pleased with themselves.

Now here’s the big exciting news. Yesterday morning Billie laid her first egg! It’s perfectly egg-shaped, and it’s about the size of a cherry. From what I understand, she will probably lay one every other day for about a week or so. Then, in about three weeks, the first one will hatch.

GC and I, at the urging of Facebook friends, went out and got a webcam yesterday and hooked it up and started broadcasting. You can watch, in real time, the inside of Billie and Lester’s nesting box, right here: The Love Nest. You might even get to see Billie lay another egg. We plan to keep it on during the days, and turn it off at night. (The site has a text-based chat feature too – if you want to chat, I think you have to register for free with the host site, ustream.)

(Oh yeah – do male birds have penises? Most do not – however, the Argentine Lake Duck has a penis half a meter long – the same length as his body.)

11 comments to The Love Nest

  • This leaves me with a pressing question. If male birds don’t have penises (it never occurred to me to think they might not) how do they – um – copulate? Or rather, how does the sperm travel from point A to point B?

  • XUP

    I read that penises only evolved to give the males control over copulation. In species without penises, like small birds, the female controls the transfer of sperm – she has to allow the male to press up against her long enough for sperm transfer to take place. I guess this didn’t work out so well, so eventually evolution developed penises that could force copulation and keep the species going.

  • The ustream show is great! You’ve got some good informational posts here on the blog; links to them from the info box on your show page might be useful.

    I was wondering about the penis issue (aka penissue) too. The only bird sex I’ve seen was Molly & McGee’s, and it was pretty brief, though fairly frequent (he’d bring rodents several times a a night and usually earn a tumble for his efforts, at least until the kids had hatched).

  • I am learning so much from this post and the comments!

  • This is fantastic. I love how similar animals are to humans. I guite often give the boyfriend paper to shred too — just to keep him busy. I’ll check out the webcam when I get home tonight. Can’t wait.

  • Laurie, that’s a very good pressing question. According to those know-it-alls at Wikopedia, “only 3% of bird species have a phallus: the common urogenital arrangement for both males and females is the cloaca, through which all elimination and reproduction (via juxtaposed cloacas) occurs.”

    More romantic writers refer to the sex act as the “cloacal kiss.”

    XUP, I read that too – they also said that the female bird has a reservoir in which she holds the transferred sperm, and with which she fertilizes her eggs as required.

    Thanks Auntiemichal – good idea about the links. I’ll do that tonight. It was fun chatting with you over there. But I immediately forgot how to do the heart and owl icons. ( heart ) (heart) (owl) and ( owl ) didn’t work. Incidentally, Lester and Billie ‘bond’ for much longer than Molly and McGee did. (And they’re a lot quieter about it too.)

    Laurie, stick with me kid, you’ll learn stuff you never even thought of wondering about before. 😉

    Lianne, ha ha ha.

  • grace

    My grandsnake, Nigel, has a cloaca.

  • Now I’m thinking about how snakes have sex.

  • This is so fascinating! What will you do with the babies? Can’t wait to see them on the webcam!

  • ooo there are two eggs now! I LOVE the live webcam – thanks Zoom. I will be following along. I’m not surprised Lester isn’t much help with the paper/nest building. I guess even lovebirds have relationship issues too. :)

  • THANK YOU! This is very awesome! Enjoy all the bird sex!